Legislators have been busy over the last month as they continued their work in the special legislative session on crime called by Governor Parson as well as the annual veto session which was held September 16. In addition, legislators continue to campaign for election or re-election before the November General Election. The new COVID-19 world has made in-person fundraising difficult at best.
The veto session is the constitutionally mandated opportunity for members of the General Assembly to override any vetoes issued by the Governor on bills from the regular session. It is also an opportunity for legislators to hold their final fundraising events before the General Election. No less than fifty members of the House and Senate held fundraisers in Jefferson City the night before and morning of the veto session.
Once legislators gathered at the Capitol, the only veto session activity was in the House, where Representative Mike Moon (R – Ash Grove) made a motion to override a veto of $140,000 that was intended to repay business owners who had been successful in a fight with the Department of Revenue over interpretation of a tax issue. The motion passed in the House by a 138-6 margin, but the Senate refused to act on the override, thus allowing the veto to stand. That was the only veto session activity.
The weeks long special legislative session finally came to an end during veto session. It turned out to be much more active than the actual veto session. Senate members had returned to Jefferson City in early September to consider the crime related bills passed in August by the House. Those bills reflected what Parson had outlined in his call for the special session. Two of those bills – eliminating residency requirements for St. Louis Police officers and establishing a witness protection fund – passed easily. The remaining bills garnered much more debate. Those bills included endangering the welfare of a child due to weapons offenses, transfer of a firearm to a juvenile, and HB2 – a measure which allowed the admissibility of certain witness statements in court proceedings. Senator Bob Onder added language to the bill which would have allowed the Attorney General to have concurrent jurisdiction on certain homicide cases in the city of St. Louis. An hours-long filibuster that lasted into the early morning ensued because of the Onder amendment, and only ended with the rarely used “previous question” motion, which ends debate and forces a vote. The bill eventually passed with Onder’s amendment attached, thus sending it back to the House for their consideration of the changes.
It had been rumored that House leadership was opposed to the concurrent jurisdiction provision, and that became evident as Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr gaveled members in for the special session, then immediately made a motion to adjourn, thus ending the special session and any chance for the remaining bills to pass. The move was seen partial defeat for Parson as only two of the crime related bills reached his desk.
The Governor has hinted that he will call legislators back to Jefferson City for another special session sometime in October to deal with the supplemental budget in order to fund the witness protection program. No date has been announced.
In the meantime, it’s back to the campaign trail for most legislators, as we are now in the home stretch leading up to the General Election. We will continue to keep you updated on political happenings in Jefferson City and around the state.